Fest season is in full swing as we reach the heights of summer, but it never hurts to make preparations for each time you head out into the hills and leave this land for a long weekend or a significant number of days. Whilst some sites have bunk houses, most require you to sleep in a tent – and camping requires kit!
I am not a graceful camper – my OH will attest to this – but having camped at each fest since I began attending the large Fools and Heroes events I would like to think I have developed some amount of resilience. I am a grumpy camper, I do not find climbing out of a warm sleeping bag into the cold amusing, and dashing through the rain to the toilet block is not one of my fonder memories of events. However, camping can help leave the “real” world behind.
So, as I cast my own mind forward to the next event and consider whether it is time to replace our tent, I thought I would share some of my views on preparing to go larping in the wilds (or not so wild wilds).
When preparing to go to a larp where you will be camping, the first thing I urge you to consider is how you are getting there. Travelling by car (on your own or with a friend) is a completely different situation compared to travelling via bus, train or other form of public transport. Someone might be willing to transport some of your gear for a price (a pint, a mug of tea, some cake, your soul … the usual bartering pieces) but deciding this first will save you a load of headaches when it comes to packing up.
Once you have secured your mode of transport, you can consider your gear and how to squeeze it into the bag which will always be too small … Common sense dictates that if you are travelling by car you might be able to pack a little looser and take a larger tent, but travelling by public transport you will need to be able to carry all your gear on and off your mode of transport with speed and ease – a couple of rucksacks, sleeping bag slung on the bottom of a rucksack, a tent in one hand and a weapons bag in the other is probably the most gear you might be able to handle if jumping trains – however I have little experience of this. If in doubt, talk to other larpers who have done this before for their words of
Tents and assorted paraphenalia
Tents have a “recommended” number of people they can hold – but these are aimed at keen hikers who are super friendly with only a battered rucksack, walking boots and their trusty penknife for company. A two man tent will not fit two larpers and their gear, and I doubt that anyone would be willing to leave their gorgeous kit outside at risk of rain. Some people take a couple of pop-up tents and have one to sleep in and one for their gear. I would estimate that a four man tent will sleep two larpers and hold two larpers’ gear (essentially two people and two characters) comfortably – particularly if there is a space between the two areas where kit can be left to dry overnight/stuff can be chucked when it rains.
I won’t try and explain how to put up tents as every tent has its own quirks. My OH, being the tentmaster, usually sorts the outer skin first with its frame and pegs it in place, attaches the inner compartments, folds the groundsheet so it only sits 2/3rds of the gap between the two compartments, then sets to sorting guy lines and additional pegs etc. Having a patch of dirt in the tent has been useful when stepping into the tent during a downpour – meaning dirty mud clagged boots don’t tramp all over the groundsheet and we have a designated “safe” section to stand on when getting in and out of kit/boots.
We have moved on from inflatable mattresses to camp beds due to my grumpy post-armour-post sleep state (as an aside, camp beds are so worth the hassle for my OH for a good nights sleep!) but for a long while we would set up the inflatable mattress, then break the pump and watch the mattress deflate slowly over the weekend. These are topped with the individuals requirements – but I take blankets and steal the warmest sleeping bag and fashion some mockery of a “normal” bed. What you use is your choice, but taking pillows, blankets and layers adds to the amount of gear you will be carting across the field and will need to be considered when packing your luggage. For sleeping bags I would urge you to consider how often you will be using it and the lower end of the temperature range it will comfortably withstand. Go Outdoors have a sleeping bag guide (and many more) which might help get an understanding of what you’re looking for before you head out to buy one. My OH also suggests when packing your sleeping bag back into its bag (if it came with a bag) you stuff it, not roll it – which’ll help it last longer and put less stress along the fibres of the sleeping bag. Air and wash your sleeping bag (read the label!) before storing it, so that you don’t have to do so when you are packing to go away.
We usually carry numerous tent pegs (of all strange and gnarled shapes from being abused on stony ground) and extra guy ropes, as well as the poles to prop open the tent door on those rare hot and humid days. Other essential pieces of kit to take have proven to be – duct tape, spare cord (of some reasonable strength), pen knife and torch (pocket/head torch).
If your tent is new – put it up before you go camping. Taking your time to go “what is THIS for?” at home makes putting the tent up in the field in-a-hurry-because-it’s-raining-and-all-the-gear-needs-to-be-put-in-the-dry easier. Also it gives you a chance to pack it down as you choose. It will not return to the fresh-out-of-the-bag-state, so you’ll just have to make your own way of packing it away.
Preparing your character kit
You are going away to LARP, yes? Well, you’ll be needing some costume kit for that, as well as all the necessary and assorted sundries you will need over the course of the weekend. When packing to go away I get my character kit out first – all the clothing layers, the bags and pouches, the over layers (and layer just in case it get REALLY cold overnight) before I consider any ooc clothing to fill in under the layers and days around the event. Essential ooc layers that I urge you to take are: clean underwear (plus spares), walking socks (plus spares), a set of clothes to arrive/leave the site in and reenter the “real” world, sturdy walking boots (!!!), spare clothes. Did I mention spare clothes? If it rains and rains and rains and you are sodden, knowing you have something warm and dry back in your tent can turn a miserable time into a mildly soggy occasion.
Once I’ve got all the clothes packed I turn to my character’s belongings and lay out their standard adventuring kit. At this point I usually re-dose the colours in any alchemy/physiicans drugs/water in vials they might be carrying and redo any labels that might be blurring or illegible. If they have a prayerbook which they would have in the field I check it’s up to date – the same with any ledgers/note books that might be needed. I then consider any additional bags that might be needed if we are to carry out belongings into the camp IC. I have included below a quick “mass produce guide in the field” for physreps to help in prepping at the last minute.
I also then roll the bandages purchased/required for the event and prepare any ritual sundries that might be appropriate. This normally takes up most of an evening and I try to do this a couple of days in advance of travelling to double check everything is in order – double checking is your friend …
If the fest includes a banquet I pack a bag of crockery – plates, cutlery, tankards and “glassware” that would be needed and pop this in whichever food bag we’re taking with ooc snacks, ic snacks, beer or other drinks. I would urge people to take bottles for water (be it ooc bottles to keep in your tent to drink between adventuring and monstering slots, or ic bottles to carry with you when in the field) so that you can hydrate yourself during the day. The tap or water fountain or bar can seem a long long way off when you’re across the camp battling terrible evil in some foreign land …
We have an weapons bag to help carry our gear across site and to store our weapons in whilst at home. It’s just a large rectangle of cloth sewn to make a bag with a long strap and a tie at the top to bind it shut, but it saves the countless journeys back and forth from the car to the tent, or from the tent to the weapons check, or from the house to the car, with arms full of unwieldy weapons. This means we can guarantee that the item we need is with us when we got to big events, but it always helps to check before setting the bag aside in the kit pile. Before an event my OH might spray a rag with silicon spray before running it over the weapons to keep them in good condition. With regular TLC and general care weapons will survive for years before needing a touch up or re-latex. Don’t forget to take weapon loops or sheathes if you’re wanting your hands free when out and about.
If we’re taking armour we pack this in a separate heavy duty shopping bag or canvas bag to take the weight. Chainmail and plate can be a heavy lump of gear, but leathers or padding can also be quite bulky. Because we have a car we can pack this separately, but an armour/weapon bag or packing the heavier items at the bottom of a rucksack might be the wise option when heading out on public transport. A sports bag, the sort that are used by rugby or hockey players, might be a suitable alternative and will probably have space for your character gear too if packed small. My OH likes to take a few tools/spare rivets etc to do temporary repairs to kit, but you can usually find someone who might be willing to help you out if you need an extra hole punched in a strap or a rivet needs to be put back in. Worst come to worst? String. String and tape.
Don’t forget to pack any llammies, boons, curses, prayer books, permits or other item which allows your character to do cool things or exist. The usual rule on our sites is this – no lammie/book/card, no skills and it would be a shame to turn up to this big event and find your character can’t exist because you left something 100 miles back up the road …
A quick guide to physrepping in a rush
Picture the scene – its the night before the fest and you’ve not even started packing. First of all – panic. Once you have finished panicking, stop and make a quick list of all the key bits you HAVE to have with you – character kit, materials, tent, sleeping bag, walking boots, weapons.
If you are playing a character who has to carry lots of “materials” – scrolls, prayer cards, alchemy, drugs, bandages etc – then you may be in for a night of stocking up. There are ways to speed this along. First – employ a minion/friend/hapless partner and set them to helping mass produce your supplies. If this is not possible (because they’re packing at the same time) then you can do the following.
Physrepping alchemy/drugs – if you have to fill lots of vials with coloured liquids you can do this on site before time-in. Take some squeezy water bottles (ones with the sport caps or similar), lots and lots of bottles/vials that need filling, and the usual things you use to colour the water – food colouring, paint etc. Put the bottles into a box with scissors, sticky labels or paper and tape and the coloured pens to make them with. Fools and Heroes usually uses black and red pen. When in the field you can fill up your bottles of water, add your food colouring to each big bottle, then just fill your vials as you need, labelling in batches as you go. You might even be able to find minions to help you if you ask nicely/offer cake/cash in a favour.
Physrepping holy water – similar to the above – take your vials and go fill them with water from the on site taps. Take some sticky labels and a pen and mark them up accordingly. Just make sure you pack your vials/bottles in your kit bag.
Physrepping bandages – ideally you’ll already have loads lying around that just need folding/rolling to show they’re “clean”. If not then buy a cheap bedsheet from a charity shop and go at it with scissors. Stuff these strips into a bag to take with you – you can always sit rolling them once your tent is up and you have opened your first beer/cider/can of pop of the weekend.
Physrepping ritual scrolls/prayer cards – If you don’t have enough time to sit and write scrolls whilst packing, take either a roll of paper and a penknife, or pack lots of sheets of A4 paper in your bag along with pen/pencil, tape and your dowelling. Once you’ve got your tent up you can sit and cut/stick/write your scrolls and just poke the dowelling through the top and bottom as you need them. Or sit and write the scrolls in uptime after rolling up your sets of blank pages into your bag. They may not look as flash as your usual ones, but at least you’ll be prepared for most things. If you have A4 paper with you, you can fold it and tear it into square to use for your cards once on site.
Additional thoughts or amusing titbits
The Ordnance Survey Blog also has a load of tips/articles on camping/outdoor hobbies which might just be a bit of fun to read. I found the following to be reasonably applicable to larping camping – “20 things only real campers know” and “how to survive camping at festivals”. Another blog I peruse and used as inspiration for this ramble was Skirts and Wolves’ five by five posts on “put your pack in a tent and you’ll be fine” and “how to pack (almost) anything like a wolf”